Preventing Disease Versus Protecting Life: 3 Different Approaches to Medicine
Falun Dafa as a “science for life”
Jingduan Yang, MD, LicAc, with John Nania
Falun Dafa, also called Falun Gong, is a powerful mind and body cultivation system that has its roots in prehistoric China. Surveys strongly attest to Falun Dafa's healing efficacy, in many cases resolving conditions that other therapies could not.
As a physician myself, studying the practice has also helped me further my own understanding of medicine and its relationship with human life. Here, I want to compare three different approaches to medicine, and outline their effects on patients.
A science for disease
Western medicine is based on what we can see and touch. Therefore, in an ironic twist, patients have to be sick enough before they can be treated. If biochemical means, imaging techniques, and pathological methods cannot detect any abnormality, Western doctors do not know what to do. They watch and wait.
Unfortunately, all fatal diseases are at work long before we can detect them with our current technology. By the time we are able to notice any abnormality, it is often too late for treatment. Thus, despite advancements in medical technology, the mortality and morbidity of many diseases have not changed much. The quality of medical care today is still far below our expectations. Let's look at some of the figures.
Every year in the United States, 400,000 to 500,000 people die of coronary artery disease. One million Americans suffer heart attacks. There are 170,000 new cases of lung cancer diagnosed each year (mostly from smokers) with about 150,000 deaths. An estimated 140,000 new cases of colorectal cancer are diagnosed each year, resulting in about 55,000 deaths. About 12 percent of women will develop breast cancer and 3.5 percent will die from it.
There are about 10 million type 2 diabetes cases. There are an estimated eight to 12 million cases of sexually transmitted disease each year. And let's not even mention drug abuse, alcoholism, depression, and the hundreds of other ailments people are suffering and dying from.
What’s even more frightening is that we still do not know the exact cause for many of these illnesses—only that that an unhealthy lifestyle (e.g., a poor diet, excessive drinking, unsafe sexual activity, stress, a lack of exercise) contributes to health problems. As a society, we teach little about harm reduction or prevention, while the cost of treatment only climbs higher and higher. Once afflicted with a disease, patients are totally dependent on external help: doctors, medical devices, and drugs.
This is why we can call Western medicine a “science for disease.”
A science for health
Compared to Western medicine, Chinese medicine can do better in diagnosing and treating illnesses at their early stages if physicians follow traditional principles.
Chinese medicine is based on a system we cannot see—an energetic network of “meridians” that connect all parts of the body. With knowledge of this meridian system, any illness can manifest as abnormalities in the system and can be treated through the system’s points on the body's surface.
Chinese medicine emphasizes prevention. It believes that the best physicians are those who treat people when they are not yet ill. It can cure many ailments before there are any pathological changes that can be detected by biomedicine. Because of this, the cost of treatment in traditional Chinese medicine is substantially lower than that of Western medicine, with fewer side effects and often greater efficacy.
However, this requires patients to take responsibility for a healthier lifestyle, which is why we can call Chinese medicine a “science for health.”
A core tenet of Chinese medicine identifies emotional distress as a key cause of bodily dysfunction. This dysfunction, in turn, makes the body vulnerable to external pathogens.
This is embodied in an old proverb from Chinese medicine, which compared the heart—the organ which is believed to house the mind—to an emperor. If the emperor is not wise, goes the saying, it jeopardizes the other 12 organs in the body. To live a long and healthy life, a person must have “a clean heart with few desires.”
Before I studied Falun Dafa, it was hard for me to understand this saying. I thought that people could only live for the fulfillment of their various desires—biological, psychological, and social. Even if people did want to have a clean heart, how could they clean it?
Falun Dafa answered this question for me.
A science for life
First of all, Falun Gong’s founder, Mr. Li Hongzhi, tells us that Chinese medicine originates from a prehistoric culture, and that the body’s meridians are a system that exist in another dimension.
My understanding is that many diseases actually emerge from deeper dimensions, which is why they can be reflected through the meridian system at an early stage. Methods that interact with this system, like acupuncture, can then catch them before they surface in our physical bodies.
Second, Mr. Li tells us that the ultimate purpose of life is to return to our original, true selves. That means that we have to cast aside our attachments, fears, and weaknesses to reveal our true nature, the best version of ourselves that we can be.
In this framework, all the different desires are attachments that cloud our hearts. Going back to that adage from Chinese medicine, a troubled heart engenders negative energy that can then transform into all kinds of diseases.
This view explains why there are so many intractable diseases in our world today—a world built around our every desire. Although our technological advancements fight disease, they can’t save us from our own bad decisions. How could technology change a person’s life if that person doesn’t want to change?
Third, Mr. Li points out that the cultivation of our moral character is the most important way to improve our lives. He also tells us that the mind and the body are one and the same. When a person’s moral character improves, the body’s energy becomes purer, and the person is thus healthier.
I began to understand why people should have “clean hearts” to live long and healthy lives.
As Mr. Li told Time magazine, if one does not want to have an ordinary person's disease, the only way around it is to become an extraordinary person.
By practicing Falun Dafa, people are not simply preventing death: they are learning how to truly live. For this reason, I believe that we call Falun Dafa a “science for life.”